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Franchise: Carmen Sandiego
Careful, else she'll steal this wiki.

Well, she glides around the globe and she'll flimflam every nation
She's a double-dealing diva with a taste for thievery
Her itinerary's loaded up with moving violations
Tell me, where in the world is... Carmen Sandiego?

Edutainment Game series created by now-defunct Brøderbund Software in 1985. The series became phenomenally successful in the 1990s, spawning no fewer than three television shows, two on PBS and one on Fox, then falling into obscurity shortly around the Turn of the Millennium before resurrecting around The New Tens, starting on FaceBook. The series is now owned by the Learning Company, which hasn't made a new Carmen Sandiego game since 2001, though it did license the character for Secret of the Stolen Drums, released in 2004 for home consoles.note  There probably have been plenty of games released, and Carmen just stole them all.

The standard case involves an educational quest to find The Loot, The Warrant and The Crook.

TV shows in the franchise include:

Games in the franchise with their own pages include:

Carmen Sandiego is an International thief, and it's down to the Interpol-esque ACME Detective Agency to stop her plans. Fortunately, she plays Criminal Mind Games with her pursuers to provide the obligatory Alphabet Soup Cans. But don't worry; she's a Friendly Enemy — at least some of the time.

Her Back Story? Carmen was a star ACME agent until she decided that catching crooks was just too darn easy. Therefore, she did a Face-Heel Turn and became a Gentlewoman Thief. Then she decided to have Fun with Acronyms by founding an organization called the Villains' International League of Evil (V.I.L.E.). Although V.I.L.E. is progressive enough for Equal-Opportunity Evil, you absolutely must have a Punny Name to join.

The thievery of Carmen is second to none. She doesn't just steal jewels; she steals national monuments. She's even been known to time travel, just so she can find more stuff to steal.

Given a massive Darker and Edgier homage here. It was playable on FaceBook (but no longer) and coming to WiiWare.

The Carmen Sandiego franchise provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Acme Products: Possibly parodied, as the name is given to a detective agency rather than a product.
    • Some versions combine this trope with the in game suffix "-Net." At default it's "Acme Crime-Net," but it could also be "Time-Net" and in the game show it was often used as ACME (fill in the blank) Net.
  • Affably Evil: And how! She steals all kinds of items, and it's implied that she's doing this primarily for the thrill of it, but she's given a fairly endearing personality.
  • Affectionate Parody: College Humor's Where the Fuck Is Carmen Sandiego?, how the game show would look like with a whopping dollop of grimdark.
  • All There in the Manual: In a rather strange variation, some of the background information for the Acme detectives introduced in Treasures of Knowledge appears in the manual for Secret of the Stolen Drums.
    • You wouldn't know one of the villains even had a Punny Name unless you read the manual, as he's only called The Baron in-game. Turns out his name is actually Baron Grinnit. Which explains why he's always smiling.
  • Alphabet Soup Cans: Newer games are generally worse offenders here than the earlier ones.
    • Justifiable in the sense that you are trying to find a culprit, so are gathering evidence to suggest where they went. Some clues make sense, such as they describe where the suspect is going, but other times it seems rather contrived, such as naming the country where something was invented or finding the birthplace of a celebrity.
    • Word Detective and Math Detective, which teach language arts and mathematics respectively, play it completely straight.
  • Alternate Continuity: Fox's Where on Earth... series appears to have its own continuity. The two PBS shows may be set in the same universe, but that's not too clear since they have No Fourth Wall and are game shows. And don't even try to figure out which of the computer games take place in the same universe...
    • It could be said Treasures of Knowledge, Secret of the Stolen Drums, and the DS game do form one continuity as they share a few common characters and Carmen's backstory, but the games can be played without Continuity Lockout being an issue.
  • Art Shift: Has happened a few times. One of the most notable are word and math detectives, which make the series still have a rather cartoony look, but they look much Darker and Edgier compared to the earlier ones.
  • Awesome McCoolname: Carmen herself, for starters. Chase Devineaux from the Word Detective, Math Detective, and ThinkQuick Challenge games. Shadow Hawkins from Treasures of Knowledge is actually a subversion, the manual for Secret of the Stolen Drums reveals Shadow's real name is Shannon.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Carmen Sandiego's signature red Badass Longcoat and fedora.
  • Big Bad Friend: The Facebook version occasionally enlists people from the player's friends list as some of Carmen's mooks.
  • Canon Immigrant: Where on Earth established Carmen's Back Story as a former ACME detective, adopted by later games in the franchise.
  • Cardboard Prison: Extremely blatant: Carmen gets captured at the end of every computer game and maybe 30% to 50% of the time on the PBS game shows. Despite this, she's at large in the next game/episode. This also applies to many of the lesser villains.
  • Classy Cat-Burglar: Carmen's practically an archetype.
  • Coat Full of Contraband: One of the generic henchmen Where In The USA was a very sneaky, sleazy-looking guy who opened his trenchcoat to reveal sparkling, gleaming watches.
  • Collection Sidequest: Finding all 450 amulets in Secret of the Stolen Drums. Not necessary for 100% Completion, but on the Sliding Scale of Collectible Tracking, it varies from "Could Be Anywhere" to Lost Forever, especially since once you moved to the next location there was no way to travel back to a previous location. Just to make things worse, the PS2 version has one amulet Dummied Out for no apparent reason.
  • Copy Protection: Horrible, horrible copy protection. Arguably some of the most frustrating of all time. You can play all you want, but to get promoted and even have a chance to capture Carmen, you have to enter certain words from certain pages of the included travel guides every few cases. Sound easy enough? Then remember that these games were incredibly common in schools...where the manuals would often get lost. And even the teachers couldn't exactly summon new copies of a travel guide (now often several years, if not a decade) out of date at will...
    • Where in Time... came with a hefty paperback desk encyclopedia in the box.
      • Ironically enough, the later CD games had no protection at all.
    • At least with World, the reference was an Almanac; most of the information in one of those can now be found on Wikipedia. Europe used an atlas and asked questions about what color country X on page Y was. USA what the last word on page Y of the Fodor's travel guide was. Have fun guessing!
  • Criminal Mind Games
  • Da Chief
  • Difficulty Levels: In Word Detective, Math Detective and ThinkQuick Challenge.
  • Ditzy Genius: Hawkins from Treasures of Knowledge is certainly very smart, having graduated from the Acme academy at the top of his class. Compared to Jules, though, he's woefully inexperienced.
  • Double Reverse Quadruple Agent: According to her backstory in the 80's version, Carmen was one of these, obstensibly for the small country of Monaco, but she decided she liked crime more than espionage.
  • Droste Image: Setting the Chronoskimmer to the West in the 1976-2000 time period while playing Where in America's Past yields this location image.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Games made prior to 1990 had the sight of a hand firing a warning shot from a gun or a knife/axe tossed across the screen to let you know you were closing in on a thief. It comes off as relatively violent to people who played the later games that had more comical animations (eg. an alligator snapping its jaws at the player, or a spring-loaded boxing glove punching into view) at the end of a case.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil
  • Even the Girls Want Her: The Nostalgia Chick claimed that Carmen is hot, and would love to see if she was wearing anything under her coat.
  • Evil Gloating: Oh, how Carmen loves this. In any game where you receive messages from the Chief on a Video Phone, expect Carmen to occasionally break into your communications for gloating purposes.
  • Evil Luddite: In ThinkQuick Challenge, Snarla Swing's motive for stealing knowledge is her hatred of technology.
  • Expy: Most likely an unintentional example, but Ivan Idea from the v3.0 games/Great Chase, Ben from the junior novels, Shadow Hawkins from Treasures of Knowledge, and Adam Shadow from the DS game share similar traits with Zack from the cartoon (blonde-haired male detectives who happen to be tech-savvy). However, Adam borders on being not just an expy but also a Suspiciously Similar Substitute - not only does his default outfit looks near identical to Zack's outfit, considering the DS game is set in the same continuity as Treasures of Knowledge, Shadow is nowhere to be seen.
    • The ACME Detective Agency sort of started off as a fictionalized version of Interpol. In fact, in the original versions of World and USA, the organization you worked for actually was Interpol.
  • Face-Heel Turn: Carmen, way back when...
  • Falling Chandelier of Doom: Carmen employs this against Jules and Hawkins in the opening of Treasures of Knowledge.
  • Feelies: The oldest games in the series from the 1980s and very early '90s.
  • Fetch Quest: Carmen Sandiego's Great Chase Through Time, Word Detective, Math Detective and Treasures of Knowledge
  • 555: The phone numbers in the deluxe versions of World and USA are all prefixed with 555.
  • For the Evulz
    The Nostalgia Chick: Carmen's not really in it for keeping the stuff but more the thrill of the hunt, but most of all, just proving she can.
  • Friendly Enemy: Carmen, especially in the Earth continuity.
  • Fun with Acronyms: V.I.L.E.
  • Genre Shift: Secret of the Stolen Drums is a platformer, which is a far cry from previous games in the series.
  • Gentleman Thief: Carmen is a female version.
  • The Great Politics Mess-Up: The older games were made before the fall of Communism, making them pretty inaccurate now. Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? Deluxe managed to be made in the narrow window after Germany had been reunited, but before the Soviet Union fell. Lampshaded in Treasures of Knowledge when Hawkins says he's "back in the U.S.S.R.", prompting Jules to correct him. Ironically, Treasures of Knowledge inaccurately portrays the Russian Federation with Soviet-era borders on the in-game map. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan would like a word with the Learning Company.
    • There are also some non-Communism-related examples of Geography Marching On. It'd almost be impossible to count how many Carmen games show the World Trade Center towers in New York, but it's a lot (they're even in the opening credits of the Where on Earth cartoon). In the 1996 version of World, your location for Afghanistan is one of the Bamiyan Buddha statues, both of which were dynamited by the Taliban in 2001. When the name of a currency is given as a clue, it will be inaccurate for any country which has since adopted the Euro. And so on. A geography game just can't stay accurate forever, you know.
  • Guide Dang It: There are a few examples where they give a rather obscure hint that's not explained in-game because you're supposed to look in the guide book. The Facebook game justifies this because they know you're going to use Google.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: The Chief of Acme Detective Agency is a mysterious, shadowy character in the early games.
    • Unless the Chief is Lynne Thigpen.
    • Or a posh British gentleman.
    • Or the Hologram Chief from "Earth" cartoon.
  • Highly Visible Thief: That red trenchcoat witch matching fedora won't help you sneak past ACME, Carmen.
  • How We Got Here: Secret of the Stolen Drums starts out with Cole explaining why he failed to obey the Chief's orders to return to headquarters. Repeatedly.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Oh, is it ever.
  • Idiot Ball: All of the early games had Idiot Ball in the form of the battery-powered translator. With no spare batteries. Or, say, a charger.
  • Impossible Thief: She stole the galaxy! And probably nobody has any clue as how she did it because she stole that too...
  • Improbable Age: Both ACME and V.I.L.E. seem to regularly employ teenagers. Zack and Ivy of the Earth cartoon are fourteen and eighteen respectively. Patty Larceny, Sarah Nade, and Jacqueline Hyde are teenagers, though their exact ages are never specified. According to the user's manual included with the 1997 version of Where in Time, Ivan Idea is a "teenage whiz kid" and Polly Tix is "still too young to vote".
  • In-Universe Game Clock: In Where in the World v3.0, depending on the in-game clock (and time zone), if you stay long enough in a location you can watch the sky go from day to night and vice versa.
  • It Will Never Catch On: In the 1996 version of World, there are "good guides" who will give you a tour of your current locale. The tour of Moscow has Dee Plomassy singing the praises of the dawning era of democracy in Russia. In retrospect, her optimism about The New Russia seems just a bit premature.
  • It's a Small World After All: The clues you are given are about the entire country the crook went to rather than any specific place. Fortunately, knowing just the country is always enough to get you to another destination with more clues.
    • Handwaved in one of the re-releases of Where in the World... where you have to find the torch from the Statue of Liberty, even though you investigate San Francisco. The Chief mentions that it 'appeared seconds after the theft' in San Francisco. Oookay then...
    • Subverted in the Facebook game, the clues point to a specific city within a given country as some countries have multiple locations. The developers confirmed the game was created with the mindset that people would use Google for the clues.
    • In the older games, clues intended to direct you to Moscow will sometimes mention places that were part of the U.S.S.R. at the time, but which are now independent of Russia.
  • Joker Immunity: She can be caught, but never held, no matter what version she appeared in. For example, the contestants in the game show captured her by winning, but that only lasted until the next show. It seems they've yet to make a jail strong enough to hold her.
  • Lady in Red: Carmen is never seen without her red coat, hat, and high heels.
  • Landmarking the Hidden Base: At the end of the 1996 version of Where in the USA?, you not only capture Carmen, but also discover the location of her secret base. It turns out to be under the U.S. Capitol Building. Perhaps she chose the location due to the convenient supply of crooks nearby.
  • Limited Animation: Treasures of Knowledge is a big, big offender. They made, like, five animations of Jules and Hawkins to reuse over and over again for the entire game. And they only sort-of try for lip sync.
  • Luck-Based Mission: In games made pre-1996, not every witness interviewed will yield characteristic traits of the suspect (hair color, vehicle, favorite food, etc.). It's possible to not have enough information to narrow down a suspect and issue a warrant at the time of the arrest even if you interviewed everyone during a case. This is especially problematic in early cases when there are fewer locations to travel and fewer witnesses to interview.
  • Monumental Theft: She used to be the Trope Namer, because when she isn't committing them, she's sending out her henchmen to do so.
  • Mooks: Carmen has quite a few of these.
  • Medium Blending: In some of the games, Lynne Thigpen of the PBS game shows plays the Chief in live-action footage. But everyone else is a cartoon character. Try to figure that one out. Also, in some of the older games, the characters are cartoons running around in still photographs.
  • Nice Hat: She's never seen without her wicked-cool fedora.
  • No Name Given: The chief of Acme Detective Agency is unnamed beyond the title of Chief.
    • One series of Carmen Sandiego junior novels named the Chief Velma. She was made an aunt of one of the Kid Detectives and seems to have been loosely based on Lynne Thigpen's portrayal on the game show.
    • The Chief in the DS game was named Margaret O'Hara.
  • Pet the Dog: One episode of the Fox series establishes Carmen has a deep fondness for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, her favorite book as a kid. Of course, in that episode she's after the Smithsonian's pair of Dorothy's slippers...
    • Not to mention, the Fox series apparently states that Carmen doesn't want to hurt the ACME Detectives.
  • Player Versus Player: Carmen Sandiego's ThinkQuick Challenge
  • Pretty in Mink: Early boxart covers had Carmen wearing a dark-colored fur coat, with Where in the USA and Where in Europe being the most prominent examples. Carmen had a red fur coat on the original cover of Where in Time as well.
  • Product Placement: Back in 1998 there was an Amtrak-skinned version of Where in the USA, titled Where in America...The Great Amtrak Train Adventure. It basically added in Amtrak-themed clues and Amtrak-dressed cartoon employees as additional witnesses. It also included a promo advert for Amtrak in the in-game database.
  • Punny Name: Absolutely ubiquitous in the Brøderbund games; the Learning Company apparently didn't like them as much.
    • Just for fun, have a gander at the following baddie names from the Choose Your Own Adventure book Where In Space Is Carmen Sandiego?: Bea Miupscotti, Avery Littlebit Phelps, Morton U. Bargandfore, Kit Incaboodle, Astro Fizzix, and Hanover Fist.
    • For the Facebook game, it's initially subverted as most of the crooks have mundane names. It's played straight once you start solving the Hard cases that Punny Name criminals start showing.
  • Race Lift: Carmen is usually unambiguously Hispanic, but at times she has been changed to a paler skin tone. Arguably she just gets turned into a Mukokuseki type lighter skinned Hispanic though.
    • She stole her own skin tone.
  • Reboot: The WiiWare games.
  • Recycled In Space: Where in Space Is Carmen Sandiego, naturally. Thankfully the game is a positive example of this trope because it was one of the best in the series.
  • Red Baron: Carmen's been referred to many times as the Queen of Crime, and less often as the Duchess of Thievery. But most of all, she's been called the "World's Most Notorious Thief".
  • Regional Riff: Used, often quite beautifully, in Treasures of Knowledge whenever Hawkins and Argent arrive in a new country.
  • Respawning Enemies: The elemental spirits in Secret of the Stolen Drums. Averted with Carmen's robots — any robots Cole has destroyed will remain destroyed, even if you saved, quit, and reload the game again.
  • Retcon: Lots of 'em. Most notably, Carmen's original Back Story had her being a former spy for the Intelligence Service of Monaco — don't expect that to show up in any game made after Czechoslovakia split up.
  • Rewarding Vandalism: In Secret of the Stolen Drums.
  • Right-Hand Cat: In Junior Detective and the 1996 versions of World and U.S.A., Carmen has a pet cat named Carmine. Sadly, we never see Carmen stroke Carmine in the usual villainous fashion (although Carmine being a ginger cat and Carmen always wearing red would create a terrible color clash).
  • Rogues Gallery: V.I.L.E. in the PBS shows.
  • Saving the World
  • Shout-Out: The Facebook game has a few, mostly to previous TV shows.
    • The Chief looks very much like Lynne Thigpen from the game shows, specifically Where in the World.
    • Carmen's wanted poster references lyrics from the theme song to the World game show.
    • While Carmen has yet to make an actual appearance, her characterization and described appearance from the various papers on the bulletin board and databases share similarities with how Carmen was portrayed on Where on Earth. Even the logo for the Facebook game looks similar to the logo from Where on Earth. Word of God has not confirmed this, though.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Treasures of Knowledge spells Carmen's middle name as Isabela. The manual for Secret of the Stolen Drums spells it as Isabella.
  • Spy Catsuit: Carmen wears one in ThinkQuick Challenge as an alternate outfit to her red trenchcoat and Nice Hat.
  • Step Three: Profit: 1. Steal huge national monuments/treasures/etc. 2. ??? (As far as is known, neither Carmen nor any VILE henchman, once having stolen something, have tried to ransom it back or sell it to fences, etc.) 3. Profit (It's been assumed Carmen does this for the thrills, but what about the VILE Henchmen? And how does VILE stay in business?)
  • Stock Footage: In the 1996 version of Where in the World, the in-game database includes some video clips, all composed of footage from old National Geographic specials.
  • Supervillain Lair: Carmen occasionally has one of these.
    • In Word Detective and Math Detective, you teleport between various V.I.L.E. hideouts around the world (and one, from Math Detective, in outer space) to find the games needed to unlock the Plot Coupons.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: V.I.L.E. seems to be stocked with complete idiots; given a Hand Wave in one of the game manuals, which said that Carmen has a soft spot for people less capable than herself.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: While every Carmen TV show and game has its own cast of characters, many fulfill similar niches.
    • Scientists: Dr. Belljar, Sarah Bellum, Jane Reaction
    • Musicians: Sarah Nade, Mel Ancholy, Carri Daway, Esther Odious
    • Aliens: Kneemoi, Dr. Ima LeZaard, A. Leon Being
    • Nobles: Contessa, Baron Wasteland, Baron Grinnit
    • The Pig Pen: Hugh Stink, Top Grunge
    • Hackers: Dee Cryption, Cy Berpunk, Telly Phone
    • Robots
  • Time Police: Whole point of Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego? and Where in America's Past as well.
  • Time Travel: Where in Time and America's Past, obviously, and there were time machines in Where on Earth.
  • Tomboyish Name: Subverted with Jules. One clue Carmen left behind addressed Jules as Julia in Treasures of Knowledge. This actually caused a Dub Name Change in the DS game.explanation 
  • Unwinnable by Design: If you spend too much time going to the wrong places, before you figure out some of the more obscure hints (Especially in the later cases where there is almost no room for errors), you'll run out of time or battery power.
  • Updated Re-release
  • Victory Pose: Lampshaded in Carmen Sandiego's ThinkQuick Challenge.
  • Video Game Remake
  • Villain-Based Franchise
  • Weirdness Search and Rescue: A Time Travel focused Carmen Sandiego game had these.
  • World Tour: One of the most famous examples.
  • You ALL Look Familiar: The bystanders in the 1996 versions of Where in the World... and Where in the USA...


WastelandUsefulNotes/Apple ][Wizardry
Captain NovolinEdutainment GameCarmen Sandiego Word Detective
Virtua FighterSega Master SystemWonder Boy
CarmageddonUsefulNotes/Apple MacintoshCastles
Castlevania: Legacy of DarknessVideo Games of the 1990sWhere in Time Is Carmen Sandiego? (1997)
CadaverUsefulNotes/AmigaDr. Brain
Captain SabertoothFranchise IndexCarry On

alternative title(s): Carmen Sandiego
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